There is a broad stereotype in the world, where it is felt that liberal views about economic policy and globalisation are held the most in the US and the UK. It is often felt that mainstream middle class urban India has a fairly socialist approach to many questions.
The Pew Institute has been running a large scale survey effort across the world. In their latest 2007 survey, their sample is roughly 45,000 people worldwide. In India, they have roughly 2,000 people, with an urban bias.
They have three key questions that measure economic liberalism, covering attitudes towards international trade, attitudes towards foreign companies and attitudes towards free markets. The results contain many surprises. As an example, in urban India, they find 89% are supportive of international trade, 73% are supportive of foreign companies and 75% are supportive of free markets.
The fraction of the sample that is supportive on these three dimensions, in 46 countries, is as follows:
|Free trade||Foreign firms||Free markets|
I think all three measures are driven by an underlying value system that I term `the liberal worldview'. A summary statistic could be made by averaging the three. I did a principal components analysis and find that the weights on the first principal component are not that unequal - they are 0.59 for trade, 0.59 for foreign firms and 0.55 for free markets. The first principal component accounts for 61% of the variance. Using this principal components analysis, one gets this table of countries sorted by the prevalence of liberal views on economic policy:
This does not fit well with the stereotype of liberal Anglo-Saxon economics being prevalent in the US and the UK and nowhere else. If anything, poor countries have even more liberal values when compared with rich countries.
Urban India is at rank 9 out of 46 countries. China is at rank 11. I guess both countries have seen socialism first hand and support for liberal economics is strong.
The report also shows sharp changes over the last five years. On page 16, they show support for foreign companies in India went up from 61% in 2002 to 73% in 2007, a gain of 12 percentage points. On the question People are better off in free markets, support went up from 62% in 2002 to 76% in 2007, a gain of 14 percentage points. Most interesting is page 20, where the fraction that believes that government has too much control has risen from 52% in 2002 to 71% in 2007 - a rise of 19%.
If you looked at the rhetoric of political parties in India, you wouldn't think that this was the way the people think. Of course, this is not quite how voters think. The Pew Institute's sampling in India has a 79% urban weightage.